President Goodluck Jonathan has urged Nigerians to only have the number of children they can afford and backed wider use of birth control in Africa’s most populous country.
Nigeria is the continent’s largest country when it comes to population, with around 160 million people, and the UN estimates it could grow to around 400 million by 2050.
Jonathan called for programmes aimed at encouraging “Nigerians to have the number of children they can manage,” and signaled that government policies could be adopted in the future.
“For us to plan properly, we must manage our population, but it is extremely sensitive,” Jonathan said in Abuja late Tuesday in an address to the National Population Commission board members.
“We are extremely religious people… It is a very sensitive thing.”
Nigeria’s population is growing 2.5 percent annually, a rate some see as unsustainably high in an already densely populated country sorely lacking infrastructure.
Jonathan said that deeply held religious convictions in the country divided between a mainly Muslim north and mostly Christian south make population control a challenge.
“Both Christians and Muslims, and even traditionalist and all the other religions, believe that children are God’s gifts to man,” he said.
“So it is difficult for you to tell any Nigerian to number their children because… it is not expected to reject God’s gifts.”